The Grammar Ogre

Dennis AkersDennis Akers | Director, IH Mataró

Quote Becoming good in the range of language skills is a more important goal than acquiring perfect grammar Quote


Aquesta pàgina en Català English

Somehow, grammar, more than any other aspect of studying English, seems to acquire a degree of fear and worry around it. And, of all sections in language exams, it is typically the grammar questions that cause students to panic most.

When you ask learners why they have negative views of grammar, the reasons often given are that:

  1. grammar is the single most important part of language learning.
  2. absolute perfection and accuracy is essential
  3. putting point (1) and (2) together makes for an unattainable goal.
  4. the best way to get better at grammar is to spend a lot of time reading grammar books and doing lots of exercises.
  5. it all takes a long time, and progress sometimes seems so slow and painful.

At first glance all these statements may sound convincing – but to make the Grammar Ogre go away (or at least appear a little bit less terrifying) we need to look more closely at each of these five beliefs and challenge them a little.

Yes, grammar is important – but grammar on its own is useless. The only point of knowing grammar is in order to communicate successfully – and you can communicate successfully with less than perfect grammar and because of this, learners find that becoming good in the range of language skills – listening, vocabulary is a more important goal than acquiring perfect grammar.

If you want to improve your grammar, it might seem logical to spend most of your time studying grammar books and exercises – and, in small quantities, this can be useful. But most research seems to suggest that the main way we learn grammar isn’t in this sort of way. We learn it by listening to people using real language and by reading real written English – in other words we learn language by being exposed to it and using it.

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